“Remember Me and I will remember you.” [Quran Al-Baqarah 2:152].
“I am as My servant expects Me to be. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; and if he draws near to me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.”
(Hadith Qudsi, Al-Bukhari)
As of late, my mother has been making visits to a few of her friends who recently fell ill. It is heartbreaking to watch her hold normal conversations and cracking the lamest jokes around them while they lay in bed; barely able to move a finger, and then watch the same woman rush out to the elevator and into the car, crying her heart out uncontrollably with her hands in her face. At home, she tells us, sobbing still, to make duas for her friends. She tells me that it’s the strangest feeling to see her own friends losing their health; one by one. Most of them she knew since secondary school. Her circle of friends alhamdulillah, are a bunch of late 30-year-old mothers who are quite tech savvy- on Facebook at least. They update their statuses every single day; son’s soccer, daughter’s cooking, family picnic, lunch dates and Hadeeth or Quran quotes and so much more. My mother says its strange to see her feed of quick updates coming to a slow halt, and after a day or two, someone else take over her friends’ account/s announcing the shocking news: hospital admission + critical illness, usually.
I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the friends that I have now, lying in bed with tubes and wires coming in and out of their throat and around their wrists. I can’t imagine my friends being unable to speak. I would be beyond devastated and sad. It paints a pretty surreal picture. But it’s happening to my mom. She was young. Now she’s much older and so are her friends.
One of her friends, was quite the dressy type, I presume, is struck with an illness that turned her fingers black and hard. From updating her Facebook status regularly, now her fingers are useless. Can you imagine?! She can’t even put on eye-liner! Her daughter helped her with those and feeds her. And before that, she was in coma for about a week! From the joyful and adventurous mom to a bed-ridden mom in coma. To hard-rock fingers. This was a couple of months ago. Today we got news that she is starting to be able to put on eyeliner herself. It’s an achievement. As happy as I am for her, I am extremely saddened. An achievement, yes. But from the normal healthy mother she was just months ago to this?! Reality had begin to struck me. Hard. People fall sick. Hard.
With every breath we take, the amount of breaths that measure the length of our life lessens. We can’t ‘save up’ our breaths. We can’t cheat death when we don’t even know the amount of breaths that is set for our own individual lives!
I came along with my mom to visit a very very dear friend of hers, who is recently diagnosed with stage-4 brain tumor on top of her stage-4 colon cancer. Ya Allah Ya Rabb Ya Hayy Ya Qayyum! May Allah shower His Mercy in abundance unto her! And unto her family patience! My head just throbs at the weight of this news. When I saw her, I kissed her forehead and she managed to open her eyes with great effort and said my name. I acknowledged that with only a nod because I was about to break down in front of her. And to cancer patients, this is why people like me aren’t allowed to be close to them. This was the same woman who gave birth just months ago. This was the woman who made me laugh and who made my mom laugh and who was with us, physically sitting in a chair with her newborn just months ago. And a month ago she came to KL with her family. She sat on my couch, on my mom’s bed, we made her tea. We talked and talked. And now I see her on a hospital bed, an IV drop next to her feeding her, it’s like she’s not ‘physically’ here. You know we all have that funny friend. You know there’s something wrong when they’re quiet, right? It’s unusual. And out of character. It’s the same with her. It is strange, what sickness does to you. She is also unable to see properly and barely able to say more than 2 lines. I was on the verge of dropping to my knees and just let my heart cry as much as it desired. I was ready to blurt out: “this is not fair!!”. But thankfully I got better control of myself, and I knew better than to break her spirit, or whatever that’s left of it, and whatever encouraging words my mom was planning on saying to say to her- before I ruin them for her, I quickly stepped back to allow my mom to talk to her. As I hear mom put on her odd cheerful voice, I tried to calm myself down (which seemed impossible because it was like hushing a wailing person) and I read this while giving her hand a massage (and later when I was leaving, on her forehead):
“Idh-hib al-ba’s. Rabb an-Nas. Rabbi anta ash-Shafi la shifa’a illa shifa’uka shifa’an la yughadiru saqaman” (Remove the harm, O Lord of mankind. Lord, You are the Healer. There is no healing but Yours, a healing which leaves no disease behind.’” (Reported by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
(Now after Googling it I realised it’s a prayer or rukyah for removing black magic. But it should apply to diseases as well. Right? Oh let’s just hope so because I’ve seen it somewhere, hence why I memorised it. )
When my sisters and I were younger, my mom used to teach us “La ba’sa tahoorun insha Allah” (No worries. This sickness is a means of cleansing from sins.) And we would recite it aloud together to anyone whom we were visiting in the hospital. This dua’ is for the sick, yes.
Anyway, I was saying.. such a great test He’s put upon the shoulders of my mom’s friend! I almost couldn’t believe The All-Merciful would allow such deadly diseases to befall a pious woman. (A’uthubillah wa Astaghfirullah). But I was really down and sad. This woman has a daughter who is my age. We were the closest of friends with another girl, since we were little girls. She has younger brother who is now in Adni, KL. And two younger girls. The youngest is only 10 months. 10 months! We visited this family last year and they were all happy and healthy. Masha Allah. Their mom is actually, to be honest, one of the funniest and genuinely friendliest “aunties” I have ever known. Little did we know then that she was in pain, suffering from colon cancer, already at the terminal stage. And now this?! Brain tumor?! I was beginning to question, why not other people?! …And then it hit me.
“When Allah wills good for a servant of His,He expedites his punishment in this life; and when He wills retribution for a servant of His, He holds his sins for Him to judge him by them on the Day of Resurrection.” [At-Tirmithee]
So because Allaah loves this person, He sends them trials and challenges here in this life, as a ‘punishment’, so they won’t be burdened with it on the Day of Qiyamah.
So when I thought of this, I immediately became calmer, but only to feel down again. Why down? Well.. I thought, if that family is tested because Allah loves them, does that mean Allah doesn’t love my family? We aren’t experiencing any huge tests like we used to. In fact, I felt more ‘flexible’. We are so used to difficulties, no other family can imagine. [Flashback: bed bugs attack, house hunt, sick children, baby diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, accidents and many other things that befell our family for the last 9 years since we moved here to KL and some I don’t wish to disclose] ..I mean I almost asked Allah: Ya Allah test me! I want to become Your beloved too! A desperate attempt is a desperate attempt. For the attention of the Most High.
The question is.. are we actually a 100% at ease? Totally free of challenges and tests? I looked around me and yeap. Definitely not! I’m not going to go on mentioning all our difficulties but boy might I say this is one of those rare times I’m ‘glad’ to spot the difficulties in my life! I know of a number of people whose lives are almost a 100% Test-free. They’re ‘living the life’ they say. No hungry mouths to feed, no empty pockets, no family problems, no difficulties at all! And how sad it is to see other people ogling at that kind of a life. A life that Allah blesses not. A life that is neglected and refused of Allah’s attention (for now). Those who forget Allah will stop having Allah testing them. Allah will not ‘remember’ them. This is a great deception to them; Allah is not ‘rewarding’ them. Rather, as seen in the above hadeeth: “When Allah wills good for a servant of His,He expedites his punishment in this life; and when He wills retribution for a servant of His, He holds his sins for Him to judge him by them on the Day of Resurrection.” from which we can draw a few points:-
1- Allah does not will them good
2- Allah will punish them in the Hereafter for abandoning/neglecting ‘dhikr ul Allah’ Remembrance of Allah and for other things like; greed, arrogance etc.
(and I’m sure scholars of hadeeth have drawn out more than just 2 points.)
But it is important to also remember that when we find ourselves in a bit of a Test-free situation,we shouldn’t quickly jump to conclude that ‘Allah has abandoned us’. Rather say ‘alhamdulillah’ -so that if indeed He has ‘tested’ us because we have abandoned Him, at least we would have expressed gratitude in remembrance of Him by uttering the weighty words as taught by our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.) that is ‘alhamdulillah’. And that we might as well be grateful for the temporary ease He has granted us, obviously not in vain- every occurrence in this Life has its reasons and purposes as ordained by Allah ‘azza wa jal.
Among the other ahadeeth that gave me the comfort of knowing are the following:
Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “Hardships continue to befall a believing man and woman’s body, family, and property, until they meet Allah (swt), burdened with no sins.” [ Tirmithee ]
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (r.a.) reported that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “A muslim is not afflicted by hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression – even if pricked by a thorn, but Allah expiates his sins because of that. ” [Bukharee and Muslim]
‘Aishah (r.a.) narrated that once some pain afflicted the Prophet (s.a.w.) causing him to suffer and turn about in his bed. She said: “Had one of us done this, you would have blamed him.” He (s.a.w.) replied: “An ailment is intensified for the righteous. whenever a believer is afflicted by a hardship, whether it is a thorn or more, a sin is taken off from him because of it, and he is elevated by one rank (in Jannah).” [ Ahmad ]
“Indeed amazing are the affairs of a believer ! They are all for his benefit; If he is granted ease of living he is thankful; and this is best for him. And if he is afflicted with a hardship, he perseveres; and this is best or him.” [ Muslim ]
Know that it is okay to cry when you are tested. It is okay to ‘throw a fit and question Him’ just as long as you come back to realise that Allah remembers you, and that He wills good for you. It is a thousand times better than living a life that is a little too flexible, with no obstacles whatsoever.
To those of you who are starting to feel uneasy when you haven’t been tested in a long time and are in a period where you’ve strayed too far away from His path, welcome back. It is a good sign for you to feel that way. Talk to Allah. Ask Him. Ask your Creator what you want to know. ‘Welcome back, brother. Welcome back, sister.’